A Fine Black Chalk Study of a Ballerina by Paul Lucien Maze (French, 1887-1979)


Origin: Anglo-French
Period: Mid-Twentieth Century
Provenance: Unknown
Date: c.1940
Height: 22 inches
Width: 17.5 inches
Depth: 1 inch

Light in treatment, yet very suggestive and atmospheric, this black chalk sketch by Paul Lucien Maze beautifully exemplifies his finesse, energy and charm in capturing the body. The ballerina sits with her side to the viewer, her head turned away, almost floating in space, her seat not defined, the only sense of her weight provided by the splay of her skirt. We cannot tell, but the informality and brevity of the sketch implies that she sits on the edge of the stage, perhaps taking a break during rehearsal.

The straight lines of her back and neck provide an image of poise, the fuller treatment of the  legs give a sense of voluptuousness and also flexibility, indicating her profession. The sketch is a snapshot of the performer when not performing: we view her voyeuristically, her face is not defined, and she cannot see us, aspects of the sketch, which could be seen to create a more sensual image.

The choice of subject could be seen as influenced by Edgar Degas, who created several series of images of ballerinas, often at rehearsal. Maze's father was a known friend of impressionist painters (including Pissaro, Monet, and others), and Maze himself, having watched Pissaro at work and sketched with Dufy, is considered by some “the last of the post-impressionists”.

Maze himself had a long and illustrious career. A highly decorated soldier, he became good friends of Winston Churchill and was to remain Churchill's artistic mentor throughout his life. He exhibited widely all over the world, having been recognised as a master in pastels, and his work is represented in the Tate, the Fitzwilliam, Cambridge, the Glasgow Art gallery and Museum, and in HM the Queen Mother's private art collection.

A sensual and engaging sketch by a great artist, signed by him in the lower right corner, and framed and glazed ready to hang in an attractive and sensitive frame.